TV: Did You Think I Stopped Watching? Network Finale Wrap-Up

TV:

May sweeps came fast and furiously with most shows wrapping up their seasons.  Instead of going over each one in detail, I’m just going to provide some random thoughts on this season for many of the shows I watch: 

Grey’s Anatomy (ABC):  Wow, a huge explosion and fire at Seattle Grace (or whatever its not- so- new name is) and no one died.  It’s a first for the show that is known for its disaster finales that always entail big deaths.  We did have one doctor leave the show because of the fire but I didn’t care for that character so no big deal.  I am amazed at how this show just keeps chugging along.  I’m in for the long haul as well as the love triangle that the season finale set up for next year.

Scandal (ABC):  It’s a good thing Scandal is ending next year.  It has gotten to be so far-fetched that it spends most of its time in the world of the absurd.  Nellie as President – really? Not in our lifetime.  Olivia as a power-hungry manipulator in the white house?  I’m afraid the foundation for that plotline was loosely laid.  Fitz off to a quiet life in NH?  If true, he’d certainly be in the best place of any of them but I doubt it will last.  Olivia’s mother is back….pleez…don’t they have any new ideas?  Certainly, not for Quinn who is pregnant with who knows whose kid.  Ugh…. a show that started off so fantastically is well beyond its prime.  Wrap it up!

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (ABC):  Somehow, this show actually got renewed for a 5th season.  I didn’t love this year with the AIDA killing everyone and the alternate universe where Fitz is a baddie and his relationship with Simmons on the rocks.  I can’t say as I followed who exactly were the bad guys and how next season was set up but I suppose I might eek one more year, maybe, out of this show.  I don’t think it will last for more.

The Blacklist (NBC):  Another show where I have invested years and they aren’t exactly paying off.  To have to wait 4 years to confirm what everyone had pretty much figured out from the beginning (that Reddington is Liz’s father) was so anti-climactic as to be a “who the heck cares any more” moment.  I was sorry to see Mr. Kaplan go but am intrigued enough by the “bones” headed toward Liz to tune in next year.  If they drag out that mystery too long, however, I’m out of there!

Mary Kills People (Lifetime):  This is not the most intellectually compelling show you’ll ever see but it is well done and I hope it will be around next year.  If you missed it on Lifetime, catch up this summer.  Not only is it shot beautifully, the acting is good (particularly Caroline Dhavernas as Mary) and it is written and directed mostly by women.  Each episode moves quickly with the requisite amount of suspense and the subject matter is compelling.  And, despite its compelling subject matter, there is humor which is needed to break up the death scenes.  Hopefully there will be a Season 2 because the show deserves it.

Jane the Virgin (CW):  I love, love, love this show and it never disappoints.  The characters are amazing and have so much heart that the viewer is emotionally attached to each and every one.  This season has primarily revolved around the central theme of love or in Jane’s case, her re-entry back into the world of dating after coming to terms with Michael’s death. Her parent’s relationship deepens and ends in marriage and even her grandmother finds love.  The finale introduces us to Jane’s probable new love interest for next season and I can only count the days until this show comes back in September.  Jane is a tough show to catch up on as there are approximately 23 one-hour shows per year and there have been several seasons but if you have missed it, and have “binge” time this summer, try it out.  You won’t be disappointed.

The Flash (CW):  I thought the Flash this season was a bit too morose and dragged out Iris’s death interminably.  Barry’s disappearance at the end of the season should be short-lived next season and I assume we will be back to the creature of the week with an overall super villain story-arch.  I like what they did with the Killer Frost character in the finale by not having Kaitlin go back to normal with no ramifications.  It keeps that character complex and interesting.  Hopefully next season will recapture some of the “lightness” the first two seasons had as this one was just a little too dark for me.

Supergirl (CW):  Supergirl is destined never to have a lasting love interest and this season was heartbreaking for her as her Daxamite boyfriend Mon-El can no longer exist on earth and is sucked into a black hole in space.  On the plus side, Supergirl kicked Superman’s ass and Cat Grant (Callista Flockheart) was in the last two episodes and yes, she does know who Kara is!  Bring this woman back full-time!  We were introduced at the end to next season’s villain – a blood sucking kryptonite who was also launched from the planet as it was exploding to what I only assume will be a landing on earth.  Supergirl and Flash are my antidote to watching Rachel Maddow in the hour before them.  They take me away from it all!

Premiers:

So, with all those finales, you must be wondering whether I saw any new shows and unfortunately, I did.

Bloodline (Netflix):  The first season of Bloodline was “bloody” fantastic.  One of the main reasons was Ben Mendelsohn who was just plain spectacular.  Unfortunately, he died at the end.  Season two had Mendelsohn in flashbacks but it just wasn’t the same and the show was not good.  Season three (the final) dropped last week on Netflix and because I am a glutton for punishment, and a perverse side of me wants to see all the Rayburns rot in hell, I watched the first episode.  The whole thing took place in the dark and I couldn’t even see the characters.  It was extremely irritating.  The most obnoxious thing, however, is that I am going to have to watch it again to have any understanding of what happened.  It seems like a high price to pay to have to watch an entire season of this just to see them all get their just rewards but I can be a masochist especially during the summer when there isn’t much happening elsewhere on TV.  If you haven’t seen this show, don’t get involved with it!!!!!!

Note:  I still haven’t caught up on DVR with Billions, Genius and Legion but now that things are calming down, I intend to do some catching up!

 

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TV: Insecure, Supergirl and No Tomorrow premier; Halt and Catch Fire concludes a great season.

 

Premiers:

Insecure (HBO)

Insecure is a new comedy about an “insecure” 29 year-old African American woman who is looking to change-up her life. It is very well done with a diverse cast led by Issa Rae who is also the co-creator and executive producer. The dialogue is fast paced – particularly between Issa and Molly her best friend – as both women navigate being black in their respective “white” worlds. For those unaccustomed to the conversational speed, you may need to turn on the “cc” but for a diverse audience clamoring for more TV like this, dialogue will be much appreciated.

Insecure has great writing, acting and music that compliments the plot effectively (be prepared for a fair amount of Rap). Issa faces many of the same issues that most of us do and it is the way she deals with her insecurities that makes the show relevant and identifiable to a wide audience. Insecure won’t be for everyone but it is an important addition to an ever-growing body of work featuring diverse characters and storylines that are rich sources of entertainment.

Supergirl (CW)

Supergirl premiered last year on CBS and was not the ratings hit that the network expected. It really doesn’t fit into their demo so was sold to the CW and retooled for Season 2. It premiered this week and didn’t miss a beat. Melissa Benoist is still immensely likable as our heroine; her supporting cast just fine and the new characters that were added, Superman and Lena Luther seem quite good. I love the new understated Superman/Clark Kent (Grant Hoechlin) who plays off nicely against Benoist. Lex Luthor’s cousin Lena, (Katie McGrath), is potentially a much better villain than any we had last season.

The premier was a lot of fun with a couple of exceptions.   The show abruptly ended the Kara/James romance after a full season of built-up with no good explanation. The other bizarre plot line was the guy in the coma who got a lot of attention the first few minutes and then virtually disappeared for the rest of the show. What the heck was that all about? I’ m sure we’ll find out soon although it is very unclear as to whether the guy is friend or foe.  Calista Flockheart is supposed to have a reduced role this year but she was fantastic in the premier, screaming for her new assistant. I’ll relish every moment she is on screen.

I didn’t notice a drop-off in the special effects, which was expected with the transition to the lower budget CW network. I think the fit with CW is much better and like the Flash, there is a lot of heart in this series and it is just fun to watch. Anyone one can view these shows and understand what is going on which is a great given how difficult some of the Marvel shows are for non-comic book readers. In short, I’m in for Season 2!

No Tomorrow (CW)

This show premiered a couple of weeks ago with positive reviews from many critics so I thought I’d check it out. It is the story of a millennial woman (Evie) who lives in a very ordered world but meets a hot guy (Xavier) who has quit his job to focus on a bucket list because he believes the world is ending. Xavier convinces Evie to live life to it’s fullest and create her own bucket list of things she has always wanted to do. The show is upbeat and fun as Evie discovers new ways to live life each week making it a welcome relief to many of the drearier hour-long dramas I’m watching.

That being said, I got back from a mini five-day vacation.   Two of the days were Friday and Saturday (which have only one show that I watch), and there were 19 hours of TV from basically 3 nights that I had to get through on my DVR. Some of these shows have to go. No Tomorrow is one of them as is Pitch. I’m sure there will be more.  It’s not that the show isn’t good but I can’t watch everything.

Finales: 

Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)

Halt and Catch Fire wrapped its third season this past week with a blockbuster 2-hour finale that could have been a series finale. At about the same time, we got the great news that the show had been renewed for a fourth and final season so we will get to see our somewhat dysfunctional techies return for a stab at getting the internet in everyone’s hands and hopefully conclude their story in a meaningful way for the small but devoted fanbase.

Season 3 has seen the demise of Mutiny, the estrangement of the two lead female characters, a suicide and Joe’s journey from the head of a wildly successful anti-virus company to a man with nothing but a lot of guilt about his colleague’s suicide. Lee Pace plays the brooding Joe with subtlety and nuance that is impactful. This season continued the brilliance of Season 2 with characters that were deep and complex and a plot that grounded us in reality about the struggles of women in high tech. It is interesting that not much has changed for women in Tech in the intervening couple of decades.

The Season 3 finale left us with our main characters getting together once again (after being split up for the past 2 seasons) to take the early beginnings of the Internet and develop it for a mass market. The scars of their prior relationships are all too obvious. None of them can trust Joe; Gordon and Donna are divorced; Cameron can’t forget what Donna did to her and in one of the most emotional scenes in the series, Donna walks out of the deal so that Cameron can bring it to fruition. Donna is devastated and this performance is certainly Emmy caliber. It will be hard to wait until next summer to see our band of techies try to work together on the biggest project of the century. I certainly believe that Cameron and Donna will somehow find a way back together to bring it off.

 

 

TV: The Night Manager, Confirmation,Vinyl, Supergirl and Better Call Saul

 

Premiers

The Night Manager (AMC)

The Night Manager premiered this week staring Hugh Laurie (House), Olivia Coleman (Broadchurch) and Tom Hiddleston (Loki from the Avengers). The pilot starts out with a slick, James Bond type of intro which speaks volumes to the budget for this show!   Laurie plays an evil billionaire arms dealer and Hiddleston plays the night manager of a hotel who inadvertently becomes involved with some of the arms dealers in Cairo. Coleman who plays a British investigator to help bring down Hugh Laurie’s character enlists Hiddleston just a little too easily but I’m willing to go with the flow.

The mini-series is adapted from a John Le Carre’ novel and has the potential for  a nifty spy series. I enjoyed the pilot although from the critics I have read, it is the weakest episode. If this is the case, I’m going to really like the rest. Laurie is amazing as a super scary villain and I love Olivia Coleman who plays a very similar character to her role in Broadchurch. Tom Hiddleston is sexy and fun as a junior James Bond. This show is a nice surprise in a month that I was only focused on the return of Game of Thrones and wasn’t expecting anything else particularly noteworthy.

Confirmation (HBO)

It’s hard not to compare Confirmation with the recent American Crime the OJ Simpson story. Both take place around the same time; both events captivated the American audience and divided it at the same time. The OJ production was great. Confirmation was fine. What made the difference? Confirmation was a less than 2-hour movie of the Clarence Thomas hearing where Anita Hill (played adequately by Keri Washington) accused him of sexual harassment. It was a straightforward timeline of the events surrounding the nomination. Never do we really understand the motivations and impact on either Hill or Thomas. This could be because of the brevity of the movie – I don’t know whether it would have been better had it been a short mini-series. It also could be that these two individuals have never put themselves out there in the public eye like all the participants of the OJ story. I don’t think the writers and actors had enough meat for Confirmation to enable us to really empathize and relate with the characters.

That being said,  Confirmation is fine. It is not great like the OJ series. It may appeal to those who have an interest in history, the Supreme Court, politics and/or women as victims of sexual harassment in the work place. It is an important film for young people who weren’t old enough to remember the hearings who should be reminded of the ugliness of certain aspects of our political system and the treatment of victims. Unfortunately, for those of us who do, there is really nothing new to what we remember other than a reminder of Joe Biden’s wishy-washiness. If you are of an age where you remember these events, I don’t think there is any compelling reason to see Confirmation. You’ll be much better entertained seeing the OJ series.

Finales:

Vinyl (HBO)

Thank god it’s over. I will never go back for season 2. They could fire every actor; every writer, every producer, Director and show runner and I still wouldn’t come back. It was awful. Even the finale was really boring and the final scene just ridiculous. When Vinyl and Billions both premiered at the same time, I made the choice to watch Vinyl and DVR Billions based on the preliminary reviews. Based on more recent reviews, I made a BIG mistake. People actually like Billions. Now I have to go and binge like 10 hours of a bunch of rich white guys making a lot of money through questionable tactics!

Back to Vinyl. The characters are awful and I’m so tired of the cocaine and alcohol. The writers should really watch Mad Men again which takes place around the same time and is much more effective in incorporating the impact of drinking all day into the story. I really watched Vinyl to hear music from one of my favorite periods but have been disappointed in how little of it there is. At the end of the season, I could care less if the record company folds, if all their relationships crumble or if they all die from overdoses. There is just nothing to warrant interest about for any of these people or what they are doing.

I think HBO is in big trouble when it comes to the hour drama.  The crown jewel, Game of Thrones, is coming to and end.  The critically acclaimed “the Leftovers” has only one more season to go and it hasn’t had large audiences.  The few dramatic series they have in pre-production all have serious problems and the new shows like Vinyl are not good. I guess it just goes to show that a network can pour more money into series than any other network and still come up with garbage.

Better Call Saul

I liked Better Call Saul’s first season but think the second was even better.  I’m not sure how long this show can keep going as a prequel to Breaking Bad but I’m in it for the ride. Each show this season has been fun to watch while Kim and Jimmy struggle in their corporate life and finally leave the law firm to start their own practices. Kim has been a really great character in Season 2 and I hope she stays for the duration. Mike’s story has centered on his relationship with the drug cartel and is equally entertaining as we watch his story progress while former Breaking Bad “Baddies” show up along the way. Although the two storylines don’t intersect much, there is a lot of substance to them both.

The finale had a huge cliffhanger, as brilliant Chuck is able to hoodwink Jimmy into confessing to his crimes. It is due to the power of the writing and acting that despite the fact that Chuck is the more honorable brother, we still are rooting for Jimmy to get away with his crimes. Although he is a crook, he is likeable and has a lot of heart. He genuinely tries to help his brother, which makes us like him even more. If you haven’t seen Better Call Saul and are a fan of Breaking Bad, it’s worth catching up on over the summer

Supergirl

This is just a really nice little show. The star, Melissa Benoist is infectious as Supergirl and Calista Flockheart is absolutely fantastic as Cat Grant. I could watch her all day and night. The rest of the cast, much like the Flash are engaging and interesting. Who really cares about the weekly alien attack; what we care about (again, like the Flash) are the relationships between these immensely likeable characters. We want to know their stories and relate to them.

The finale was great. All the characters we care about survived to see another day as Supergirl saved the world. Things progressed with Jimmy, Cat seems to know who Kara is and there is a big mystery for Season 2 assuming the show is renewed. It’s all good.